U.S. Soccer president: Anti-kneel rule ‘missed the point’

U.S. Soccer Federation president Cindy Parlow Cone said a recently repealed policy requiring national team players to stand for the national anthem had “missed the point completely.”

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Speaking with ESPN FC Daily, Parlow Cone said the USSF board of directors’ original discussion in 2017 about the policy centered on “the perceived disrespect for the flag.”

Parlow Cone’s comments come two days after the board of directors voted to repeal the policy requiring its players to stand for the anthem.

“We missed the point completely — it was never about the flag,” Parlow Cone said. “It was and is about fighting police brutality and the racial injustices in our society.”

Parlow Cone also apologized to women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe, who kneeled during the anthem before the USWNT’s 2016 match against Thailand and several times at her club, the Seattle Reign. Rapinoe did so in a show of solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players, who kneeled during the anthem prior to their games to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

George Floyd, who was black, died May 25 in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes. Since then, protests have taken place around the world in response to Floyd’s death — and the issues Kaepernick and Rapinoe were trying to draw attention to. Some of the recent demonstrations have included protesters and even police officers kneeling. This led the USSF to reconsider its policy.

“I personally apologized to [Rapinoe] for putting this policy into place,” Parlow Cone said.

Parlow Cone took over as USSF president following the resignation of Carlos Cordeiro in March. She had previously served as vice president for the federation and was a former player for the women’s national team.

“While I personally choose to continue to stand for the national anthem and use my voice in other ways, I feel others have the right to kneel,” Parlow Cone said Thursday.

Parlow Cone added that three players from either side of the anthem issue presented their views to the board prior to its decision to repeal, with Rapinoe being one of them. Parlow Cone did not identify the others.

Parlow Cone also addressed the current legal dispute between the USSF and the women’s team. In May, a California judge threw out the players’ claims that they were underpaid in comparison with the men’s team. However, the court allowed complaints of unfair travel, medical staffing and training to proceed to trial, which is scheduled to begin June 16.

“I want to resolve it … as partners, as teammates with our players … it is still my hope we can resolve this before it goes to trial,” she said.

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